As a native New Yorker, I always struggled with the term “NY style pizza.” A thin crust with no regard for texture, ingredients, or the cheese-to-dough-to-sauce ratio does not qualify as a NY pizza. Fuggedahboutit.
It seems for the longest while, I was resigned to Papa John’s, Domino’s, and Lil’ Caesars (SIGH). Not that those pizzas aren’t good, but sometimes I just wanted a taste of home. That’s where Valentino’s Pizzeria & Restaurant comes in. Luckily, my husband is highly observant and takes note of places we frequently pass by otherwise I’d continue to be ignorant of this lil’ gem.
What makes Valentino’s great? It’s legit NY pizza (not NY-style). These guys know how to make NY pizza. The pizzas are just right thin (you can fold it!), the crust has just the right crunch, and the ingredients are fresh. And not only is the food fantastic, it turns out the owner’s grandfather owns the original Valentino’s Pizzeria located in Long Island (which so happesn to be my godfather’s favorite pizza place!). Can you get anymore legit? C’mon now!
So, let’s talk about the pizza. Mmmm…pizza. Valentino’s offers a great variety of pizzas from the simplistic Pizza Bianca to Meataterian to Buffalo Chicken pizza. I love the Marguerita Pizza. It’s simplistic, straight forward, and it’s simply delicious. The Marguerita is a lovely combination of fresh basil, tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella cheese. And we’re not talking about dried bits of plant, canned tomatoes, and greasy Polly-O string cheese mozzarella – it’s the fresh, real deal. I take a bite and I’m taken back home when I was a kid (long, long ago) hanging out with friends and eating a slice while walking home. There’s the right combo crispy and chewy for the crust. You can taste the chunks of tomato and the basil punch. There’s a nice healthy dose of mozzarella and when you bite into the pizza you get the nice cheese string (you know when you bite into the pizza and pull away to create a string). Did I also mention that the slices are huge and filling? Don’t be deceived – Valentino’s thin pizzas pack a punch in your stomach.
I even managed to convert my Mega-Carnivore husband to love this pizza. So, we both now order the Marguerita at Valentino’s. And, I have heard many of our health nut friends gawk at the grease. Don’t be afraid, just embrace it =). To be honest, the grease/oil is different for each type of pizza and the cheese used. So, if there are better ingredients (as is used at Valentino’s) then I tend not to worry so much about it. But, if you’re really turned off by the oil, grab a few napkins and dab – if you must.
So, there’s not just the Marguerita – you’ve gotta try the other Pizza varieties. We will occasionally deviate from the tried and true and so far we have tried:
- Piazza Bianca: Lotsa cheese and herbs. Fresh ricotta and mozzarella cheeses with basil / oregano. Good flavor. I had tried this to get a “lighter” pizza but honestly it was just as filling as any other.
- Valentino’s Special: Oh, this was a favorite at our household for some time, particularly if we had to order for football or a get together. Delicious and highly recommended. It’s a combo of pepperoni, meatballs, sausage, peppers, onions, mushrooms, and black olives with optional anchovies. Get the anchovies. It’s a food party in your mouth and stomach. It’s a heavy pizza and you can taste the different flavors of the meats and the freshness of the onions. The anchovies give you a nice salty kick to cut through some of the meat flavors. You will be mega-thirsty (especially with the anchovies) once you eat multiple slices, so have a nice cold beverage (beer of course) on hand.
- Meataterian: All the meats, including homemade meatballs. My husband loved this one a lot but I can’t really remember much about it since it’s been a long while since I tried a bite of this slice. I just remember it putting the hubby into a satisfied food coma.
- Chicken alla Vodka: So this is essentially a pasta dish on a pizza (minus the pasta itself – that’d be weird). I’m gonna say that I didn’t like it that much as a pizza but I LOVE the pasta dish – see more details below.
(Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to take pictures of the pizza creations mentioned above. I promise I’ll post up pics once I get a chance.)
The next time I go back I have the goal to try out their Two Tomatoes & Roasted Garlic Pizza, which has plum tomatoes, sun dried tomatoes, and roasted garlic. Love garlic!
So, Valentino’s isn’t just about pizza (although that’s why I primarily go there). They have some other good items worth noting:
- Garlic Knots: So far this is the only pizzeria in the area (that I know of) that serves real Garlic Knots. This is not garlic bread disguised as garlic knots – they’re knotted pieces of dough with garlic pieces, brushed with olive oil and herbs. So this is almost as crucial as the pizza. The knot should have a nice crispy bottom and firm outside but chewy, moist inside. Getting actual pieces of garlic while biting into it is a bonus. Compared to my favorite NY pizzeria, Valentino’s garlic knots are okay, but they are certainly still tasty. They’ve got all the good criteria: Good texture, crunch, healthy brush of olive oil and herbs, and some garlic pieces. Just wished it was more garlicky (yeah, I apparently was not a vampire in a previous life). Dip these bad boys in the home made marinara and it’s very good. This little dough pieces are deceiving fillers, so try eating just one prior to your meal or you’ll be full right away. I also think it’s great to eat with pasta…whew, gut buster.
- Penne Alla Vodka Pasta: You can get this meatless, but please try it with the grilled chicken. So this is related to my earlier observation on the pizza of the same name. On pizza, not the greatest, but when this grilled chicken in creamy sauce is served over a bed of penne pasta, it is AWESOME. Does it have vodka in there? Valentino’s says there’s a touch in there. I’m a Kettle One on the rocks girl myself, but hey alcohol IN food is just as good as alcohol WITH food. You can taste the “grill” of the chicken and it’s seasoned just right with salt and pepper. The creamy pasta sauce is just plain ole good. There’s a savory, tomato base in there, with the hints of cream, and something sweet. The sprinkling of fresh mozzarella cheese on top rounds out the dish nicely. It is deceptively filling and the dish is huge! Eat this and drink some wine and you’ve got a good night on hand.
- Buffalo Wings: My husband is a fanatic (at least I think so). So he makes it a point to try out wings wherever it’s served. He ordered the 6 piece Garlic Parmesan Butter Wings. The wait took a while so I think they threw him an extra wing =). In any case, taste-wise, it’s alright. Nothing spectacular, despite the garlic chunks, so I don’t know if it’s something we’ll order again.
- Cannoli: Oh my – yum. Yeah it’s good – look at the picture – do I need to say more? It’s got the fresh sweet ricotta filling and yummy shell. It was delicious, period. I don’t know if the shells are freshly made that day or if frozen and shipped, but it was yummy. I actually had a craving for a real cannoli and got my fix here. I think the only other cannoli that can top this (in this area that I know of) are the cannoli in Baltimore’s Little Italy. But, regardless, this was good. You can get the chocolate option (which I got) that has the shell ends dipped chocolate and the filling with some chocolate chips or you can get the original. Either option is delicious.
Valentino’s food is great and the atmosphere really isn’t a traditional restaurant – definitely more of the highly casual pizzeria. It’s a small place with decent enough seating. When you walk in you can place your order for carry out and you can get a fantastic eyeful of the different pizzas available. If you want to sit, one of the waitresses/waiters will seat you or you can just plop down somewhere yourself and wait for them to come by to take your order.
So, if you’ve got a hankering for real NY pizza or if you’re a New Yorker missing some home eats, try Valentino’s. There’s some good stuff and lots of variety. And if you want to order carry out, let me tell you something: They’re pizzas are HUGE. They’re 20-inch loaded gut busters guaranteed to knock you out (in a good way).
Check it out: http://valentinosnypizzeria.com/index.html
Food Quality: Really great and authentic NY pizza and pasta with a lot of variety. You’d be hard pressed not to find something you like.
Service: Depending on how busy they get (and they seem to busy often), the service can be hit or miss and you may be waiting for a while before refills come around.
Overall Rating: Great food and simple straight forward style. I can’t stress enough that this is my go-to when I miss home and want some cannoli. The only draw is that the prices can be a bit on the pricier side for pies. But, that still hasn’t deterred me from coming here.